Obama calls for ‘fair minded’ abortion debate

20 May 2009

By The Record

President Barack Obama spoke about the importance of diversity and the “call to love” at Notre Dame University on May 17 while hundreds of protesters gathered in a prayer vigil for the conversion of the President on his stances on life issues such as abortion.

U.S. PRESIDENT OBAMA RECEIVES GIFT DURING COMMENCEMENT CEREMONY AT NOTRE DAME U.S. President Barack Obama receives a photograph featuring an image of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as a gift from Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Ind., during the school’s commencement cere mony May 17. Photo: CNS.

SOUTH BEND, Indiana (CNA) – As the President began his speech, according to Fox News, protesters in the crowd began to shout before they were drowned out by others in the audience chanting “yes we can” and “we are ND”. While 12,000 attended the commencement Mass, nearly 65,000 people signed an online petition protesting President Obama’s commencement address at the University of Notre Dame, citing his views on abortion and stem cell research that “directly contradict” Catholic teachings.
The President spoke of the need for common ground; to reduce the number of abortions while honouring the conscience of those who oppose abortion, and spoke of the need to draft a “sensible conscience clause” and healthcare policies are grounded in “clear ethics and sound science, as well as respect for the equality of women”.
He urged for a reduction in abortions “by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term”.
“Understand – I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away,”  he said.
“No matter how much we may want to fudge it – indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory – the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable.
“Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction.
“But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.”
The US President discussed a letter he received from a Christian pro-life doctor who was bothered by a phrase on Obama’s campaign site which said that he would fight “right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman’s right to choose.”
The doctor then said that he assumed Obama was reasonable, but that if he “truly believed that every pro-life individual was simply an ideologue who wanted to inflict suffering on women, then I was not very reasonable.”
The doctor wrote: “I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words.” “Fair-minded words,” repeated the President.
He admitted that finding common ground isn’t easy, as part of the problem… lies in the imperfections of man – our selfishness, our pride, our stubbornness, our acquisitiveness, our insecurities, our egos; all the cruelties large and small that those of us in the Christian tradition understand to be rooted in original sin.”
He said that after reading the letter, the President changed the words on his website and prayed that he might “extend the same presumption of good faith to others that the doctor had extended to me.
“Because when we do that – when we open our hearts and our minds to those who may not think like we do or believe what we do – that’s when we discover at least the possibility of common ground.”
However, the Chicago Tribune reported on February 27 that the new Obama administration would move to rescind a rule that allows health-care workers to deny abortion counselling or other family-planning services if doing so would violate their moral beliefs.
Representing a coalition of medical and legal professionals, attorneys for Advocates International and the Christian Legal Society warned the Department of Health and Human Services on April 11 against rescinding protections for healthcare professionals’ freedom of conscience currently set forth in federal regulations.
The outgoing Bush administration enacted conscience protection for pro-life medical practitioners so they can refuse to participate in abortion.
The right of federally funded health care providers to decline to participate in services to which they object, such as abortion, was affirmed by a final regulation issued by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Obama also told the class of 2009 that opponents of embryonic stem-cell research – which involves the destruction of human embryos – are motivated by a commitment to the “sacredness of life.”
“Those who speak out against stem cell research may be rooted in an admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son’s or daughter’s hardships can be relieved,” said the President.
Obama also made a “call to love”, “for if there is one law that we can be most certain of, it is the law that binds people of all faiths and no faith together”.
“It is no coincidence that it exists in Christianity and Judaism; in Islam and Hinduism; in Buddhism and humanism,” the President told Notre Dame University.
“It is, of course, the golden rule – the call to treat one another as we wish to be treated. The call to love. To serve.
“To do what we can to make a difference in the lives of those with whom we share the same brief moment on this Earth.”

– Additional reporting by The Record.


New presidency strengthens pro-life views in US

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Less than four months into President Barack Obama’s term, opinion polls are finding that Americans are taking a dramatic turn toward greater opposition to abortion.
A poll conducted on May 7-10 as part of the annual Gallup Values and Beliefs survey found that a majority of Americans (51 per cent) described themselves as “pro-life” with respect to the abortion issue, while only 42 per cent said they were “pro-choice.”
It marked the first time since Gallup began asking the question in 1995 that more respondents said they were pro-life than pro-choice, and was a shift of 7-8 percentage points from a year earlier, when 50 percent said they were pro-choice and 44 per cent said they were pro-life.
“With the first pro-choice president in eight years already making changes to the nation’s policies on funding abortion overseas, expressing his support for the Freedom of Choice Act and moving toward rescinding federal job protections for medical workers who refuse to participate in abortion procedures, Americans – and, in particular, Republicans – seem to be taking a step back from the pro-choice position,” said a Gallup commentary on the results.
“It is possible that, through his abortion policies, Obama has pushed the public’s understanding of what it means to be ‘pro-choice’ slightly to the left, politically,” it added.
“While Democrats may support that, as they generally support everything Obama is doing as president, it may be driving others in the opposite direction.”
When Gallup first began conducting the Values and Beliefs survey in 1995, 56 per cent of Americans described themselves as pro-choice and only 33 per cent said they were pro-life. Since then, the highest percentage to identify themselves as pro-life was 46 per cent, in both August 2001 and May 2002. Obama is a strong supporter of keeping abortion legal. Some groups that promote abortion have said his November 2008 election was a mandate to expand access to and federal funding of abortion.
A separate Gallup Poll Daily survey conducted May 12-13 found that 50 per cent of Americans described themselves as pro-life and 43 per cent as pro-choice.